Troubleshooting Your Program

This section helps program administrators solve common problems encountered while managing K-12 US-China exchanges.

  1. A group of students/teachers from my partner school is coming to visit for two weeks. What sort of visit will they need?

This is the easiest visa for Chinese visitors to obtain: B1/B2. Before your Chinese visitors apply for their B1/B2 visas in China, your school or district will send them a formal invitation letter, signed by leaders within the district. The letter will state the purpose (a short term visit; do not suggest that your visitors will be formally studying in your district: this type of trip requires another type of visa) and length of the trip, as well as arrangements made on your end. Your visitors will take copies of this letter to their visa interviews in China. During the visa interview, consular adjudicators will determine whether or not your visitors meet visa requirements.

  1. How do I bring a Chinese teacher from partner school to my district to teach for 6 months or more?

 Bringing a Chinese educator to your district for a lengthy period of time is more complicated than short-term visits. Chinese visitors need to obtain a J-1 visa, the application for which requires a DS-2019 form. Host districts issue the DS-2019 form to their visitors before they apply for a J-1 visa in China. To do that, host districts must registration as a sponsor with the U.S. State Department. In 2012 the fee was $2,700. For information on how to become a sponsor, visit

If you prefer not to register with the U.S. State Department, there are many organizations that, for a fee, will issue your visitors a DS-2019. Here is a partial list of those:

  1. A student/teacher from my partner school did not receive a visa to come to the U.S. Why?

Consular adjudicators at U.S. embassies/consulates conduct interviews with applicants for visas to the U.S., and, on the basis of the information they receive, decide whether or not to issue a visa to. Sometimes information is contradictory or insufficient to convince adjudicators that the applicant seeks a visa for the reasons stated. In these situations, applicants are denied visas. It obviously can be a very subjective process. To improve the chances that your visitors receive visas to the U.S., make sure you fulfill all responsibilities on your end (issuing DS-2019s, invitation letters, etc) and send your visitors information about your school/district so that they can field related questions at their visa interviews.

  1. My partner school wants to send more students/teachers than we can accommodate. What should I do?

Chinese administrators often feel heavy pressure to provide opportunities for their students and teachers to travel abroad. Sometimes this leads to attempts to send more students/teachers than American hosts can accommodate. Be firm. The exchange relationship must work for both parties. It is better to make your goals clear early on so as to avoid the accumulation of resentments over time.

  1. The parents of students in my district are worried about safety in China. What should I tell them?

China is an extremely safe place to visit. Violent crime is rare by American standards. Many people speak English, especially in large cities. American visitors are often deeply impressed by the degree of friendliness and hospitality displayed by Chinese towards foreigners. That said, China is a developing country. It still faces food safety issues. There are lots of new drivers on the streets, so traffic violations are common. Chinese salespeople can take advantage of credulous outsiders. It is important for travellers to be aware of these problems before they travel there. 

  1. What will our Chinese guests like to eat while they are here?

That depends largely on the age of the visitors. Students from China tend to be far less parochial in eating habits than their elders. Many kids, for instance, enjoy eating cheese, a food that middle aged Chinese tend to dislike. For finicky eaters, try hot meals heavier on vegetables and lighter on meat/dairy. Soups are a good bet. Desserts are far less commonly eaten in China. For drinks, you may find that your guests prefer drinks that are hot (tea, hot water) rather than the icy beverages many Americans tend to consumer.

  1. What is proper etiquette when meeting someone new in China?

Do not bow to your Chinese visitor – right continent, wrong country. Handshakes are very common in China today. For encounters in professional settings, it is customary to exchange business cards. The correct etiquette for handing someone a business card in China is to hold your card with both hands, with the text facing your counterpart. Receive business cards with both hands and actually read the card before putting it in your pocket. 

  1. We’d like to send our students to China for one semester, but we are worried about missed classes. How do other schools handle this?

While offering more exposure to Chinese culture and society, the semester-long exchange program is far less common in the U.S. simply because schools worry about graduation requirements. To overcome that issue, some schools send only spring semester seniors, who will often have enough credits to graduate. Other schools have teachers that accompany students to China teach courses for credit while they are there.

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